§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I made no complaint about that interjection because it is only consistent with what I have had to contend with all my life in watching over the interests of the people to whom I belong.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
I hope my hon. Friend is not suggesting that I am not looking after the interests of the people I represent?
§ Mr. Smith
All my hon. Friend has to do is to look at the record of the General Elections since 1930 to find the answer.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) and I have been pressed by many municipalities, by trade union organisations and by other public-spirited people to raise this question tonight. My hon. Friend is privileged to be an alderman of the Stoke City Council and is a member of the Education Committee. She has a long record of service and welcomes the opportunity of speaking on their behalf in this debate. I shall try to provide evidence to show the correctness of the line we are taking, I shall make some observations upon the position of British sport and I shall appeal for more Government encouragement. Let me make it clear that neither I nor my hon. Friend will make any reflection on the public-spirited men and women who run the voluntary organisations of this country; in my view, they deserve more encouragement and more financial support.
There is great concern in the important industrial area we represent, and also in the greatest industrial area in the country where some of us live, as the following extract from the "Evening Sentinel" of last night shows:The Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent (Alderman Mrs. Barker) intimated last night that she would ask the City Council on Thursday for better facilities for youth athletes. 'I am going to remind them of what has been happening to youth athletics,' she said. I am going to tell them what we need.' Urging the athletes to aim at the Olympic Games, she added, 'Even if you do not get there, you will be the better for trying'.In the same locality another municipality is making provisions for a cycle track and other things for the North Staffordshire Harriers.
For years in this country there has been too much complacency and there is a danger in leaving matters until it is nearly too late. We had evidence of that this afternoon. We are constantly having evidence of it in the international field, and some of us could provide evidence to show that the same thing is happening in industry. Tonight, however, I am speaking about sport and the need for playing fields.
603 Recently we have had some severe shocks and we deserved them. In my view it is not too late, provided the Government profit by our recent experience. According to "John Bull" of 24th July, we did not win a single contest in the Olympic Games in 1952, and also, according to that paper, we do not hold one Olympic record. Those who saw the international football games at Wembley, or at Berne and Basle, on television, were bound to admire the Bulgarians, the Hungarians and now the Germans. The Germans lost the war and, for the second time in my life, we won the war, and yet we find ourselves in this position. At the same time, there is no doubt that we have now received a jolt and the effect of that jolt should be reflected in this House with the idea of urging the Government to take action.
We have had further evidence at the British Games Meeting at the White City and at other international assemblies. Ferenc Puskas, captain of the Hungarian football team said—
I am not quite clear how far the Ministry of Education can be responsible for British football.
§ Mr. Smith
Those who are very closely acquainted with the responsibilities of the Ministry of Education know that in connection with the provision of playing fields and the encouragement of sport on an area and regional basis the Ministry are supplying coaches for the schools. Our boys are now receiving the benefit of coaching at the expense of the Ministry of Education and I speak from that standpoint. The captain of the Hungarian team said:I will tell you what is wrong with English football. I saw it at Wembley and at Budapest. You have not yet learned from your experience. You stick to the conventions of 25 years ago. The English experts have ignored the enormous progress made on the Continent.It is time that we profited by our experience, and the responsibility for that lies at present with the Minister of Education.
I believe that we can produce many more men like Roger Bannister, Chris Chataway and Stanley Matthews provided that we modernise our methods and profit by recent experience, that we organise to achieve our objective and the Ministry 604 of Education provides more financial support.
There is more in this issue than appears on the surface and more than some middle-class politicians may think. A representative of the "Daily Express" who recently attended a football match in Baku said that the people there were very full of life and vitality. So are our own people. Provided that they are given the chance and that we modernise and organise, I am convinced that within two or three years we shall again be able to hold our own in international events.
I used to be very indignant when before the war certain hon. Members cast serious reflections on our fellow-countrymen. It was common in those days to compare our people unfavourably with the people of Germany. It upset me because I was convinced that if our young people had a chance they would prove dynamic and be able to hold their own with the people of any other part of the world. The answer which proved who was right came during the war, during that 12 months when we stood alone and our young men defended this country which became the base for the Allies, while some people were taking a long time to clarify their attitude towards the war. It was our own young men and women who saved this country and dealt a devastating blow against those Germans who were seeking to dominate the world.
Those young men and women are as good as ever they were, but we are now all put to the test because we need to modernise and organise in order to give them a chance so that they may hold their own with other races. If Britain is to remain a great country, if we are to make the contribution in life which our history deserves, physical fitness will be more important in the future than it has been in the past.
It has been my privilege to have been associated with many of the leading scientists of this country and to know the work they are doing. We are in the forefront of scientific development. The same applies to engineering, to steel and to work at the coal-face; but unless we adopt such a policy as will be outlined this evening, we shall not have a state of democracy which will enable us to be so dynamic and physically fit as people on the Continent and in other parts of the world. With those ideas we 605 are pleading that more support shall come from the Ministry of Education.
Physical fitness is more important than ever and will be still more important in the future. It is a contribution to good health. Those of us who have been as near death's door as it is possible to be and those who have been concerned with domestic tragedies know that we would not have pulled through but for good bodily health and physique. We want our fellow-countrymen to be in a position not only to produce more and to work harder, but to save needless suffering. We can save life if physique is as fit as it should be. We are pleading for a policy which will save life and eliminate needless suffering, a policy which has a good psychological effect in regard to one's attitude to life.
This also has an important effect on output. For many years it was my privilege to act in a representative capacity. It is easy to speak here, but where one is put to the test is in industry. Having been engaged in one of the largest concerns in this country, where 25,000 are employed daily, I know—as do many others who know the importance of maintaining the morale and the good will of the people—that this has an important bearing on output. Friends of mine tell me that when Manchester United are playing well and winning the output at Metropolitan Vickers can be relied upon to go up.
I feel that the hon. Member is going fairly wide of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Education.
§ Mr. Smith
Is that so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? If you follow closely you will find that I am leading up to proving that the Ministry of Education has responsibility for the provision of playing fields, the provision of financial support and for the policy I am outlining. If in the future this country is to hold its own this policy has to be adopted. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. J. Grimston), who has great responsibility for the running of one of the largest foundries in the country, states that when Tottenham is doing well the output there goes up.
§ Mr. Smith
Anyone who knows anything about modern industrial life, as the hon. Gentleman does, will know the importance of physical fitness to the people to whom I belong. Before coming here, I knew the tempo of industrial life, of which no one has any idea unless he has been engaged in competitive industry and had the experience of competition that many had between the wars. We were subjected to micro-motion study—timed not to seconds but timed by films, every operation being watched. This had an effect upon one's physique. Then there is the effect of repetition work upon the nervous system.
We are constantly being appealed to for harder and faster work. All this indicates the need for more relaxation, for the provision of other interests, for joys and thrills to which our people are entitled. Too many people in this country have talked for years about the need for harder and faster work. Seldom do they talk of the effect of that on the physique of our industrial population. If this country is to maintain its own in the face of world competition in the future, the Ministry of Education will have to organise along the lines for which we are pleading.
There are too many in Britain who are constantly blaming people rather than understanding why people act in the way they do. Modern industrial life demands modernised sport, physical fitness and relaxation. That urgently requires organised State and municipal action and encouragement. What do we find? Here I would interpolate that I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Those of us who have been in the House for nearly 20 years have good cause to bless those who now provide us with the Library facilities that they do compared with what was available when we first came here. I have here some evidence provided by the Librarian to show the correctness of what I am saying. It states:There does not seem to be much of relevance in HANSARD except for your Question of 22nd June, 1948.
I am very sorry. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member's speech, but the subject he has chosen is "Recreation fields and the responsibility of the Minister of Education." I cannot see how the Library comes into that.
§ Mr. Smith
That is very unfortunate, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I will restrain myself in that matter. Some of us, however, know something about Standing Orders; we have had some experience in this House; we are students of affairs and understand matters fairly well. We have also had experience of presiding over some of the largest assemblies in this country. Therefore, what I was seeking to do was to provide evidence to show that, just as I respect the Chair, so I respect the services of those in the Library. All I was doing was to give them a pat on the back, something which they seldom get and which, in my view, they deserve, for the service they render us.
The Librarian goes on in this letter to say, and this I hope you will note in particular, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the financial assistance referred to by the Ministerin answering your Question is that given by the Minister of Education under the Physical Training and Recreation Act, 1937"—have you noted that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?—and Section 53 of the Education Act, of 1944.What we are pleading for is an extension of these Acts—for their full implementation and for increased expenditure out of the total sum which is allocated to the Ministry of Education for its purposes. The estimate for this grant in 1953 was £200,000. In 1954 and 1955 it is to be reduced to £140,000. While the revenue derived from sport includes £1,340,000 from football, a total State grant of £140,000 is disgraceful. The Government take approximately £4 million out of sport, which is scandalous. I ask for an increased grant and more financial encouragement for physical fitness and sport.
We have voluntary workers in the industrial areas who are doing wonderful work. In Stoke-on-Trent there is a man, known by the young people affectionately as "Pop" Daniels, who has given 25 years' service to youth activities. He is typical of thousands of public-spirited men and women who have devoted their lives to the encouragement of physical fitness, and who work harmoniously with the local education authorities.
608 I ask that there should be further encouragement for such people, and that more playing fields be provided in areas where there are now none at all. Our children are summoned by the police for playing in the streets, but they have nowhere else to play. While some children are fortunate enough to enjoy the facilities afforded at Eton or Cambridge and Oxford and other places, in the areas where the work is done there are no playing fields at all.
In Stoke-on-Trent, one of our industrial areas, we have not one sports centre—not a single cinder track. In Manchester the Northern Athletic Arena at Fallow-field is admired by the sporting fraternity as one of the finest athletic arenas in the world. It has provided this country with some of its leading athletes. Now, because of financial difficulties, it is in danger of being taken over by greyhound racing interests.
I have often looked with admiration at the thousands of young men and women whose physical fitness arouses our best emotions, and yet we are now in danger of losing what facilities we have for providing for their recreation. It is time that the Ministry took steps to provide such facilities. Twice in my lifetime we have won a war. As a boy I toured the Continent after the First World War playing for an Army football team, and I was never better treated in my life. Yet Germany and Italy, who lost the last war, are now providing more encouragement for physical fitness than is provided in this country. Italy deducts £4 million annually for sport from the pools. We take £4 million out of sport. The Germans take £125,000 a week from the pools for the encouragement of sport, while we allow millionaires to be made out of pools and out of sport.
We ask that the Ministry should give urgent attention to this problem and that greater financial support should be provided. I wish to place on record my appreciation of the willingness of the Parliamentary Secretary to consult his officials and to take part in this short debate. At the same time, I would point out that all we have done is to take advantage of our Parliamentary rights in raising this issue which will give great satisfaction to our friends in the country.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
In supporting what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), I want to try to relate this topic to the responsibilities of the Ministry of Education. I speak chiefly on behalf of those thousands of children for whom no playing fields are provided by the Ministry. My hon. Friend has already said that through the medium of television we have been able to see many outstanding sporting events of an international nature during the past few months.
I am sure that hon. Members, especially the men, will have been grieved time and again to see British teams outplayed by people from abroad. Not one athlete in the 1952 Olympic Games set up a record for this country. I have often sat in the Tea Room after a television broadcast and heard some of the men become as heated when discussing the games as they do about arguments and debates in this Chamber. Just like every audience at a football or cricket match, they think that they could have played the game in a much better way than those who were on the field.
The arguments always raise the same questions. Everyone agrees that we should have more concentrated training and that we should start earlier with our training. It is in that respect that I want to relate the matter to the Ministry of Education. It is no use isolated people breaking speed records unless we can follow up their performances by allowing more people to join in and to represent us in international events. It is from the children that we shall draw our future cricketers, footballers and atheletes to represent the country. Therefore, we must provide more facilities for them.
Since I came to this House I have repeatedly asked the Minister of Education to state when she intends to relax Circular 245 as it affects the question of playing fields. On every occasion she has replied, as she did last week and as I expect her to reply tomorrow, "Not yet." It is true, of course, that new schools have playing fields provided as they are built, and that is right. Last week I went to look at Kidbrooke. There is not merely a magnificent school building there; there are also magnificent playing fields.
610 If the policy of the Ministry that playing fields shall be provided only where new schools are built is to continue, it means that thousands of children will be condemned to spend their time in old schools with no provision at all for playing activities outside the schools. It is on behalf of those forgotten and neglected children that I wish to make a plea tonight.
Many of the old schools—we are told in the Report of the Select Committee that there are about 600 black-listed schools and that many of them may have to remain in use for 10 to 15 years—have been robbed even of their existing hard playgrounds because of the increasing child population. Horsa huts and other temporary buildings and improved lavatory accommodation have had to be build upon the restricted space where they have had their hard playgrounds.
I want to illustrate that by reference to my own constituency. Stoke-on-Trent is an area of close concentration of factories, homes and schools. The factories are next door to the school playgrounds. The children in the schools have smoke pouring into their classrooms from the factories producing the pottery which is so valuable to the country.
Besides that, Stoke-on-Trent has very little space left for the provision of playing fields. It has many marl holes and spoil heaps from collieries and factories, and in my constituency almost every bit of playing space has gone. What is left is nothing more nor less than spoil heaps, places on which shawds, the term used for broken pottery and glass, are put as rubbish.
Stoke-on-Trent compares very unfavourably with other local authorities in playing field facilities. With a child population of more than 22,000, Stoke-on-Trent has 13 acres of playing fields, including the grammar school and all, which represents 0.6 acres per 1,000 child population. Wolverhampton has 16,250 children and 180 acres of playing fields, representing 11.8 acres per 1,000 children. Smethwick, a very much smaller local authority, has 6,300 children and 23 acres of playing fields. Also, Stoke-on-Trent does not own one cinder track or other large playing space for athletic training.
My local education authority has estimated that if it was to implement the 1944 Act in respect of playing fields it 611 would need 441 acres, and yet at present it has only 13 acres. There is not a single playing field in my constituency with the exception of one girls' grammar school and one secondary modern school. I have proposed to the Minister of Education that we should at least be allowed to make a beginning on the space which we call the Trubshaw Cross area.
This could not be called agricultural land by any stretch of the imagination. It is tucked away in the middle of factories, in a very densely populated area. It has on it colliery heaps, and much rubbish from the potteries has been deposited there. But the land belongs to the local education authority and there is, therefore, no question of having to purchase. What has to be done is to level the ground and make it safe for the children by removing the shawds, glass and refuse. The teachers in that area have, by their own effort, cleared one small Part, which has now been made available to some of the children.
This site is surrounded by 13 schools, with a child population of 4,400 between the ages of 7 and 15. With one exception, all those schools are old. Four have been blacklisted for many years, but none is likely to be replaced in the near future. To the pleas which are made on behalf of these 4,400 children the Minister repeatedly turns a deaf ear and says, "We are very sorry for you. We should like to help you, but we cannot do anything yet."
In the debate on education which took place on Monday last the Minister said that the question of painting and other measures for bringing schools up to date was a matter for local authorities. She said that she has asked Her Majesty's Inspectors to report to her any school or place where they think this is not being done. When she made that statement she was not thinking of playing fields, because she has completely shut them out ever since she decided to make economies on behalf of the Government.
I have here a report which was made in relation to Park Road School, which is in a mainly residential area of Stoke. It is the best building of the 13 schools, and at one time only middle class children attended it. Her Majesty's Inspector says: 612Facilities for organised games are inadequate The boys have only a small bare, sloping and uneven piece of land for football and a similar area for cricket. The school playgrounds are too small and slope too much for games and ball training. These conditions are thrown into relief by the absence of gymnasium, changing rooms, and showers in the school building.Not one of those 13 schools, or many hundreds of other schools in the country, can ever hope to have a gymnasium or a shower.
Some of these 13 schools have very little playground space. Moorland Road, which is a girls' school with 1,067 pupils, has 0.6 acres of playing space. Middle-port, with less than 500 children, has 0.16 acres. High Street—a boys' school and a very good one—has 0.185 acres. I could go on giving figures for the rest of the 13 schools to show how little space there is, and how few facilities there are for training in athletics, football, cricket or netball. I was a teacher in one of those schools, and for years, when I wanted to give my class netball, I had to put dust upon a cinder tip in order to mark out the lines. If it was a windy day we had to imagine those lines.
The Minister may say she is not able to make a grant to cover the whole cost of making such playing fields as the one I have mentioned, but we ask her that she should at any rate see that we can make a beginning. If only we could make a beginning it would be an encouragement to the local authorities and to the teachers and to the children themselves, and it would encourage them themselves to do what they could to improve the facilities. My hon. Friend has already mentioned Eton and Harrow. It has been boasted many times that the history of this country was made on the playing fields of Eton. I am asking tonight that something should be done for the children who have no playing fields at all.
A fortnight ago we had the national athletic competitions at Ashington, and my own city for the first time brought back five firsts, and the two girls in my division who won a first were girls not in a secondary modern but in a grammar school where playing fields already exist. We in our city believe that we have a good football team in Port Vale. Port Vale and teams like that depend on the schools for future footballers. They 613 depend on the training that the schools are able to give.
One of the things in Monday's debate that caused me very great concern was the accusation made against some teachers. I thought it despicable that there were suggestions that some of our teachers did not measure up to the standards of those in the independent and public schools. There are hundreds and hundreds of teachers who give up every Saturday morning and many Saturday afternoons, and night after night, on behalf of their children in primary and secondary modern schools.
§ Mrs. Slater
Yes. Not content with spending all day in school they become the leaders and trainers of youth outside school hours in football and netball and athletics. Those teachers are making tremendous sacrifices for the children. Very often they give up their home life for the children. We are asking tonight that those teachers who make those sacrifices shall be given some encouragement from the answer to this debate.
The Prime Minister said not very long ago that it would be too bad if we could not do anything until we were able to do everything, and all that I am asking is that the Minister of Education should show a little human kindness, realise that she is responsible for not only the children in the new schools but for the hundreds of children who are condemned to spend their schooldays in bad schools, and from tonight make up her mind that she will relax some of the restrictions she imposed in Circular 245.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I want in a few words to reinforce the plea put forward by my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) and Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith). The speeches to which we have listened have reflected the experience of my hon. Friends in their constituencies. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary is here and I express my appreciation of the fact that he has come to the House to listen to our plea this evening.
I want to refer to my own experience. Before corning to the House I was chairman of a Part III education committee 614 for seven and a half years. That committee controlled 11 elementary schools, a school population of 4,020 and a teaching staff of 109. During my chairmanship I tried to make some provision for organised games for, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows, organised games are included in the school curriculum; but it is no use having organised games in the school curriculum unless we have playing fields on which children can play those organised games.
As one who had a vision of what the situation ought to be, I made up my mind that we could not fulfil the meaning of the curriculum unless we had playing fields, and I said, "We will have a drive for playing fields." In making that drive to secure playing fields for the schools our problem was that we were unable to find the land. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South said, all around us were pit heaps and flashes. The moment we stepped on to good land we were told that we could not have it because it was required for agricultural purposes. I can understand the wisdom of that but the fact is that another Department—I must exempt the Parliamentary Secretary from this—failed to play its part in the restoration of that land and by its failure also prevented children from obtaining playing fields.
I want to support the claim by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South that land is available in close proximity to the schools provided that the Departments responsible for the restoration of that land join with the Ministry of Education and spend a few thousand pounds on the land in order that it may be levelled, drained, and have soil added. It will then become a playing field.
During my chairmanship three new schools were built and in embarking on the building of those new schools one of the essential points which we had to consider was that playing fields should be connected with them and that sufficient land should be bought not only for the buildings but also for the playing fields in order that the children could enjoy organised games. We have a playing field with the Moss Lane Council School, with the Hindley Green Council School—the village in which I lived—and the Argyle Street Council School, but for the other eight schools there is not an inch of land which the children can use for organised games.
615 On behalf of those children I join with my hon. Friends in asking the Minister of Education and the other Departments concerned to get to work to provide playing fields. We must see to it that land which has now been long derelict—and we have some derelict land in my area—is properly used. This is land which is crying out to be put to good use by any sensible statesmen. They would not find it necessary to take agricultural land for the purpose of playing fields if they went the right way about it.
I think it is true to say, when examining the development by great industrial concerns which has taken place over the last 25 years, that they realise the importance of physical fitness and therefore they have provided playing fields and recreation clubs for their employees. I admire the great industrialists—and I help them in every possible way, as I have done recently in my own district—who see the importance of the physical fitness which results from the facilities which they have provided for their employees. That physical fitness is reflected in the factories and in the workshops. If it is essential that physical fitness should play an important part in productivity—and it is, provided that we do not swing the pendulum to the other extreme—then it is equally essential that the children at school should have the opportunity of taking part in organised games.
There is a lesson to be drawn from this. Is it too late in the day to make champion runners, too late to make good footballers, too late to make good cricketers? What we want to do, in the words of an old Lancashire collier, is to "catch 'em young and train 'em in the direction they should go."
I have often said—and I hope I shall not be misunderstood—that there appears to be a strong line of demarcation between the non-industrial areas and the industrial areas. I am pleading for the same vision and the same drive to provide facilities for the boys and girls in the industrial areas as are given at Eton, Harrow, Winchester and other places. I admire the school authorities for providing those facilities. Every time I go near those places, I stand and admire what has been done. While I have admiration for what has been done, I ask myself the question: Why should they 616 enjoy all these facilities which are denied to the children of the industrial workers?
I say that it is essential that there should be a drive in this direction. I know that it means "brass." I am fond of using that word, which is a Lancashire word for money. I know that it means money, and I know that the Parliamentary Secretary will say that large expenditure on capital investment, etc., will not allow it. We are always getting that story. Almost every time we plead for some improvements for the industrial workers, we get the cry, "We cannot afford it." But we can afford it. I pay tribute to the great work which has been done by many of the voluntary organisations, which have been referred to by my hon. Friends, in raising money by voluntary efforts in order that the children may enjoy organised games in proper surroundings and with proper facilities.
I recall the battle which I had in 1925 and 1926 with the Department which the Parliamentary Secretary now represents. When I advocated shower baths at the school in my village, those in authority were up in arms against me and said that they could not afford it. That was at a time when practically 99 per cent. of the cottages in the village had no bathing facilities whatever. I fought the matter with the President of the Board of Education and finally the concession was yielded to me. People said to me that the children did not want baths, but after organised games on the playing fields they do need them. They want to enjoy the same facilities as are given to universities and colleges.
I plead with the Parliamentary Secretary to see that his Department does not try to cut these things down. After all, on whom do we depend for the future? It is to the children now passing through our hands that we must turn. They only pass this way once. It is our job to see that as they are passing this way proper facilities are given to them, so that they may enjoy the full fruits of organised games and fit themselves for the tasks which the nation will call upon them to do when they grow up.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
As a representative of the county of Staffordshire, I support the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and 617 my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater). We from North Staffordshire try to operate as a team in this House. We admire the teams in our constituencies and we try to emulate them.
We are proud of Port Vale because we realise the hazards and obstacles that that team had to overcome in comparison with some of the favourably placed clubs. We admire men like John Ikin, who comes from a small mining village in my constituency and has risen to the top rank of cricketing in this country. Therefore, those of us from North Staffordshire make no apology for raising the urgent question of providing the children, particularly in great industrial areas, with much better facilities for physical education.
The Ministry of Education should recognise that in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire it has two of the most progressive educational authorities in the country, two education authorities which since the war have been endeavouring with might and main to alter the situation over which they have control in order to provide genuinely equal opportunities for physical and mental education for the children of their areas.
But those education authorities have a terrible inheritance. The city which my two hon. Friends represent has less than 20 per cent. of grammar school places in proportion to the total secondary school places in what is a large industrial area. We have a terrible inheritance of old, archaic and dilapidated schools in which facilities are cribbed and constricted.
That is why we in Staffordshire have put forward to the Ministry projects for comprehensive schools, not because we believe in the comprehensive school as a shibboleth of Socialism, but because we believe it is the only solution to getting rid of the 11-plus examination and the selection tests and providing equal opportunities. But we consider that we have not had a fair deal from the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education has refused to approve the Staffordshire development plan for providing better school facilities in this way, and we have had to fight every inch to provide these better educational opportunities. The moratorium 618 on educational building, which was one of the first steps of the present Government, meant the loss of 1,000 primary school places in the Staffordshire education plan of 1951–52.
Having said that, I want to say straightaway that I recognise one of the difficulties of the Ministry of Education in an area such as North Staffordshire in providing the additional space that is required if the children are to have, together with their school buildings, playing fields and space for physical recreation. I know that, because in my constituency we have trouble over every inch of ground that is required for housing purposes. That is because my constituency, like those of some of my hon. Friends, is subject to mining subsidence. So much of the land is sterilised and unusable for anything between five and 20 years because the mineral valuer says that subsidence is likely to occur through coalmining operations.
That makes much more difficult the building of houses and schools and the provision of space for all sorts of purposes. Large quantities of land are written off for the time being. The result is the attempt to encroach upon agricultural land, and I recognise straight away the agricultural case. Every inch of ground that can be preserved for food production is required, and we have got to be as economical as possible in the use of ground.
One of the results in constituencies like mine is that school buildings are much more expensive. Some of the schools have to be erected on rafts because they are built on land that is subject to mining subsidence, and to try to avoid the damage that mining subsidence may cause in future, one is compelled to resort to the method of building houses and schools upon these rafts, which is very expensive. That involves an additional burden on the local education authority, and also, of course, in the form of grants from the Ministry of Education.
That brings me to the point which has been emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown). Side by side with this situation, we have acres of land particularly in these great industrial areas and coalmining areas which are derelict. There is a lot of land in my constituency where small mining operations have been carried out. Sometimes 619 the land is left in a shocking condition, with its mounds, pit heaps, slag and devastation. Anybody who has travelled through Staffordshire in a train, particularly through the Black Country of South Staffordshire, will know that acres of land have been devastated by industrial operations. They are left derelict although we are up against a land shortage, and when we demand more land in order to provide homes for the people or better schools or playing fields for the children, we are told that there is a shortage of sites. This is because we will not provide the funds to reclaim these large areas of devastated land. There lies the solution of this problem.
If a complete survey were to be undertaken of all this derelict land, we would find that there is sufficient not only to provide for those things I have mentioned, but also to enable the Minister of Education to provide playing fields near the sites on which are built the older schools which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North said, suffer from constricted facilities.
This therefore, is no insoluble problem. The question is, who will take the initiative in reclaiming the derelict land; who will provide the funds so that the children of these industrial areas may have those open spaces which are easily available for children in areas that have not been devastated by large scale industrialisation? This must be done if they are to exercise the talents which they have already displayed in soccer clubs like that of Port Vale, and so contribute their talents to the sport of the country.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
My hon. Friends have rendered a service to the children of this country by raising this important question. I know they have raised it as a constituency matter and it so happens that I was in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) on Sunday last. I have never seen so much smoke in my life as I saw in Longton on Sunday, and my sympathy goes out to people who have to live in such conditions. Therefore, my hon. Friends are to be congratulated on having brought forward this question tonight.
620 I have got up to speak because the National Union of Teachers is profoundly interested and concerned in this question. The Parliamentary Secretary will know that the Minister has received deputation after deputation from the teaching profession asking for reconsideration of the matter of playing fields. The T.U.C. has joined with the teaching profession, and we find that the whole of the organised workers of Great Britain are making a request to the Ministry to change their priorities.
I believe that our priorities are wrong and that our emphasis is in the wrong place in modern society. We are trying to cure juvenile delinquents when they reach the courts and we might avoid delinquency if we provided more playing fields such as those for which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South asked, though I am not suggesting that the delinquency figures are any higher in his area—probably they are lower. It is the considered opinion of the teaching profession that in the overcrowded areas of this country the lack of playing space is one of the prime causes of juvenile delinquency.
I ask the Minister whether he can hold out any hope that Circular 245 is to be amended if it is not to be withdrawn. Surely we are not to go on for ever saying that we have no more money to spend on this provision. We are refusing expenditure on the physical training of our young people at a time when the numbers of young people in the schools are increasing rapidly. This is a matter of major concern and I am glad to support my hon. Friends.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn)
I am grateful to the hon. Members who have spoken for the tone in which the debate has been conducted and the reasonableness and moderation with which points have been put. Nobody will suppose that at this stage I am really going to come down like a fairy godmother in the last act and distribute what is wanted. The most useful thing that I can do is to make sure that everything that has been said today is fully understood and digested in the Department, and that I will do.
621 I was very grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) for his kind words to me. He will know that by no fault of anybody's I am 24 hours ahead of schedule and to speak from one's brief on this kind of thing 24 hours ahead is not always very easy. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will forgive me if on the details I appear to be less well informed than I hope I sometimes put up some kind of pretence of being. I am very sorry indeed that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) should have been pushed back in the queue in order to enable us to come in today.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Without appearing to do what would be even worse than reflect on the Chair, and that is compliment the Chair, it was nobody's fault and none of us was trying to get in the hon. Member's way.
If I can begin with some of the things about which I agree with most speakers, I should like to say that, like the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, I also have had a great deal to do with scientists, and especially with the best scientists. I quite agree with him that English scientists are better than other scientists, and I also agree that Englishmen are better than other men and a great deal better than other men, except the very best Scotsmen and Welshmen. I also agree with the hon. Member about the value of health, which indeed, after a tough conscience, is the most valuable thing in the world. I agree about the natural relation of sport and exercise to health.
I do not think that the hon. Member was quite fair in attributing complacency on this matter to my right hon. Friend or to Ministers in general, or in attributing to us the responsibility for having been beaten by the Hungarians. I have no doubt that if my right hon. Friend or I had taken a hand or placed a foot, the results would have been different, but in fact we were not invited.
I will try a little later on to indicate what seem to be the nature of our responsibilities. I think that the hon. Member perhaps drew them a bit wide. He quoted from the "Daily Express" 622 and I was almost tempted to quote from the "Daily Express," but I think that I will not.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
No, I have not lost it. It is here somewhere, but on the whole I will not, because I am quite certain that somebody would say that I said what it says, and I should hate to run that risk; but I invite the hon. Member to look at the "Daily Express" for 27th November, and after that he will find it a little difficult to quote it as an authority for his view in this matter.
We all know that the hon. Member, like me, has been an infantryman and we all know how the bayonet-fighting officer thinks that nothing matters except bayonet fighting. People whose special interest and business is physical training and especially ball games are a little apt, sometimes, to exaggerate the importance of ball games. I thought the hon. Member was guilty of some exaggeration when he seemed almost to think that it would be rather better if we had lost a couple of wars and won an international football match than the other way round.
The hon. Member spoke of "if Britain is to remain great and make the contribution our history deserves"—I suppose "our history" is a shorthand phrase for 600 years of Tory misrule—but I do not believe football is all that important. Fond as I was of playing it and as I am of watching it, I think it is possible to overdo it. I think it possible to overdo the argument that when Hotspur are in winning vein output goes up at St. Albans, because some other side—it might even be Port Vale—are in losing vein and output is going down there. On that argument I do not think it really worth while to have football matches at all: we might go on having output on the level, and let it go at that.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
The hon. Member will not think it part of my responsibility to try to get taxation reduced, nor would other hon. Members think it part of my responsibility to deal with subsidence—a problem with which I am also familiar from a constituency point of view. I do not think these are things I can do anything about.
623 More than one hon. Member spoke about extensions of the Acts and increased expenditure under them. I do not think it would be expected that I could answer on those things in any kind of detail, but I will try to indicate what seems to be essential about this matter. First, I hope no one will suppose that either my right hon. Friend or I am less concerned about children or less convinced that it is a good thing for children to take exercise—always, one hopes, under rather remote and tenuous guidance—in the open air. There is really nothing between the two sides of this House on those points.
Secondly, some hon. Members may remember Mr. Kipling's story about how World Government came—the setting up of an institution which was to look after communications, and how, since in fact we cannot do anything without communications, the Board of Communications very gradually became the super-Government and everything else, and so we got World Government. It has not happened that way yet, but the arguments of some hon. Members opposite were almost on that assumption—which I have heard even from the highest ecclesiastical authorities—that anything that makes any impression on the mind or body of the human being is educative and, therefore, is education. If we started using "education" in that way, the Minister of Education would become a sort of super Pooh-Bah, and there would be no need for any other Ministries at all, which in many ways would simplify administration. It seems to me, no doubt from a rather selfish point of view, that the number of debates in the last two or three days have rather tended to support that assumption.
What are the more or less direct and real responsibilities of the Ministry of Education in this business of fostering physical fitness? First, and much the most important, are the schools. I will make sure that the constituency points which have been put in the debate are looked at very carefully by those who are most administratively interested. I do not think that anyone who spoke from the other side of the House pretended that everything had been right about these things until about three years ago, and that everything had gone wrong since, so we need not stop to argue about faults of that sort. Also, 624 to a lesser extent—it is only because the population is less—the establishments for further education—these and the schools are first responsibilities; and in these what can be done by central direction will be done to see that games are properly organised, etc.
Incidentally I may say about the Battle of Waterloo, when "it was won on the playing fields of Eton"—[An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I agree with the hon. Member but he ought to have been in the House earlier—on the playing fields of Eton or wherever it was won, the point was that the games were wholly unorganised. The boys themselves made up their minds and did the whole thing—made up their own rules and all the rest of it. It is not a very good example to use in this argument on either side.
Even in this matter of physical education and games-playing, etc., in schools, my right hon. Friend is not solely responsible. These things are closely watched by local education authorities through their organisers and inspectors, and by Her Majesty's Inspectors. I think it is fair to say, and I have made it my business as much as I could, in a very short time, to cross-examine, that they are quite enthusiastic and quite determined to do their best about the matter.
Under Sections 41 and 53 of the Education Act, 1944, there is power to provide facilities for physical training and recreation—for instance playing fields, to give an obvious instance—where that is not appurtenant—I hope that is the correct legal term—or appendant to a particular school. That is a second responsibility.
Thirdly, my right hon. Friend, in her Ministerial capacity, does, in direct grants to national voluntary associations, support projects which are outside the concern of any particular area or even of L.E.A.s in general. She makes a substantial grant to the Central Council for Physical Recreation, which I think selects and directs the coaching of which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South spoke. For similar purposes she also makes direct grants to the Hockey Association, the Fencing Association and two or three other organisations.
These are the direct and specific responsibilities about which, with the indulgence of the House, it is necessary for me 625 to say something. All the rest is really past my competence, and even if I had briefed myself better than I have done it would not be appropriate for me to discuss it more than by way of reference or illustration. I very much welcomed what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South said about the good work done by voluntary organisations in this connection. I hope he knows—I believe that what I am about to say is mutual—that the Ministers, officials in the Department and inspectors are on the best of terms with these associations and I think I may fairly say that esteem is mutual.
If he will forgive me for saying so, I cannot think him right—although almost always do think him right—in the importance he attaches, especially in relation to the Ministry for which I am speaking, to these great international events. In France, a country which I know well, there have in recent years been attempts, largely helped by André Gobert, whom some people may remember as a great lawn tennis player, and others, to organise games and open-air activities, camping and so on, largely on the English model. I do not know so much about Germany, but so far as I have been able to hear about them, and from what I have observed in France, I do not believe it is true, as was suggested—perhaps unintentionally—by several hon. Members, that this country is doing less than other countries in the encouragement of children and young people in some kind of outdoor activities or in learning to play some sort of game.
I do not believe that we should find it a good exchange if we did less of that and more of just producing two or three people who could beat the world in a particular sport. I remember some years ago André Gobert in a conversation with me said something which might be considered paradoxical by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but which he stuck to, despite the arguments of other experts who were present: it was then the time when the French were winning everything at Wimbledon, and he said the reason was because there were so few Frenchmen who played lawn tennis. In France, the moment a person was out of the kindergarten stage, he was invited to play with better players and was pushed on. So that anyone with more than average aptitude—certainly in the textile towns of the North-East and in Paris and Lyons 626 and one or two other large towns— went on and on. In England, on the contrary, a player might be good enough to get in his college six, but not into his university side. But he would be perfectly happy in that position because there would be thousands of other people at a similar level. I do not believe that anyone would think it a good thing to change that sort of goodness among a great number of people, in order to try to improve a few.
I am fortified in that belief by a sentence which I came across by chance and which was spoken a few years ago. It refers to the then Minister of Education,His first objective, however, is the development to the full of each person's physical potentialities and not the fostering of success at competitive games. … I should have thought it was much more important to raise the general standard of physical culture and athletics than to cultivate specialism."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1950; Vol. 477, c. 2031.]I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite agree with that sentiment expressed by their leader when he was Prime Minister and speaking in defence of the then Minister of Education. I do not think there is any party opinion about this. We all agree that it is the right line to take. Annoyed as we may be when we see headlines in the evening newspapers—"England ruined"—we must not allow our actions to be governed by that impulse.
§ Mr. Summers
—that in the context of what he has just been saying, and despite the sentiments of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, an hon. Gentleman opposite did contrive to beat the chess world champion the other day.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I agree. This would take me too far, although on the Motion we are discussing perhaps anything is in order: I could go on for a long time if my audience would stay. I throw it out by the way that most of the best and most important things in life are in fact by-products. This may well be one of the things where, if we give the maximum number of people a chance in this respect, we get a by-product of excellence, which is of much greater value than what we should get by aiming directly at the first level of excellence.
627 On the question of further organisation, these things can be over-organised. Anybody who has been at the Ministry of Education, however grateful and respectful he may be for all the advisory councils and all the rest of it that there are, must hesitate before being anxious to see any more organisations. In this connection we have the Central Council of Physical Recreation, which is a co-ordinating organisation representing something over 100 national bodies and which performs very great services to my right hon. Friend and to the nation. In particular, it is running courses at Lilleshall and Bisham Abbey. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has left: I do not reproach him for that, but I hoped to get a cheer at this point by saying that a similar course is now to be run for Wales. I have forgotten exactly where.
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) is not the only Welshman in the House. May I say on behalf of the Principality that I am delighted to hear that news?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I hope that they will continue to be vociferous in the right direction.
Now I come to the difficult part—the part which everybody knows is always the difficult part of this argument. Reference has been made to the limitations on the development of playing fields in Circular 245. Generally people say "with every respect" when they are about to say something extremely disrespectful, just as when people begin by saying "frankly" they do not say what cads they are but what a cad you are; but with every respect to the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown)—and he knows quite well that it is with every respect—it will not quite do to say that I should not say "that we have not got the money," because we have heard that before. I am always very glad when I can debate with the hon. Gentleman because it is always a fair debate and I Always enjoy it. He has brought up children and if, the second time he said that to one of his children, he had been told that it would not do any longer because he had said it once before, he would have taken a very poor view indeed of that retort.
628 Leaving all partisanship out of it, we all know that we thought that we were in a great economic and financial fix three years ago. I suppose almost all of us know that we might think so again in three months' time, but I think that that is less and less likely, touching wood and so on. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not always remember, but at times of crisis their spokesmen admit—and I could make quotations if there were time—that we really cannot treat our internal expenditure and our external expenditure separately and suppose that they do not affect each other. Every time we spend anything on something internal, without getting a short-term increase in productivity out of it, we tend to diminish the value of all the shillings in everybody else's pockets. This used to be difficult economics which I did not understand when I was an undergraduate, but we all understand it now.
The fact is—and hon. Gentlemen opposite know it as well as my right hon. Friend does—that, at the time when the circular was issued, in one way or another economic expenditure would inevitably have been very much reduced, but if something had not been done, it would have been reduced by the continuing—and it would have been the quickening—process of the pound losing a pennyworth of value every month. All sorts of things had to be done, and this was one of the things that had to be done.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite may be quite certain that no Minister can be responsible for the Ministry of Education without being very anxious that as soon as that can be undone it should be undone, and very anxious also that if it cannot be undone, it should at any rate be allowed to be a rule with exceptions. As to drawing a line for the sake of argument—although I must not be taken to be admitting that Stoke-on-Trent is the most deserving place in the world—everybody would, of course, wish that things there should be improved as soon as it is possible to do so, with proper regard to other Departments and to overall national decisions.
Everybody will understand that I am necessarily under the limitation which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South elicited when he questioned the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on 1st April, when he was told that there must be some consistency of policy in these matters and 629 that, in view of the continued need for economy in public expenditure, his right hon. Friend could not at present consider the proposals which the hon. Member was then suggesting, which were on the lines of those which he suggested tonight. Everybody will understand that I must necessarily be under that limitation.
As to what can be done about playing fields even within this limitation, there are a few things that I could say. There is a little more that I might say, but not very much more, for this debate was supposed to take an hour and we have been about two hours. One thing that I should say is that new schools are going up on the new housing estates, and it is the new schools that are getting the playing fields, and on the whole those are probably the places where it is most necessary to provide them. We are, so to speak, putting down new settlements in the wilds, and the provision of playing fields in such circumstances is a good thing so far as it goes.
If any places where there are difficulties are brought to our attention, we will certainly consider them in the most careful way, but there have sometimes been difficulties about getting land, even on new estates. Where co-operation between housing and education authorities is not perfect, we do our best to put that right, and we shall certainly continue to do our best to put it right.
I have a certain amount of technical stuff here about arranging how to make the best use of an acre and so on, but I imagine that hon. Gentlemen will feel that I have perhaps given as full an answer as in all the circumstances was possible. I hope we have had a useful debate, and I assure the House that every attention that can be paid to it—hon. Members will understand that I can give away nothing absolute—will be paid to it.
§ Mr. T. Brown
We appreciate the difficulty in which the hon. Gentleman is placed, but I should like to put a point to him. He referred to the new schools which are being built, and we all admire the Department for what it is doing in that direction, but can he and his Department do something for the old schools which were neglected many years ago? I know that they cannot do everything at once, but it would be foolish to do 630 nothing at all for those schools just because the Department cannot do everything.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I think it is understood that as soon as it begins to become possible to get capital resources for doing something which is not providing schools where otherwise there would be no schools, what the hon. Gentleman suggests will become possible and will be considered with every favourable predisposition.